FIVE Zimbabwean inmates have escaped from custody after a group of heavily armed men freed them from a South African police truck transporting them to court, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said on Friday.
SAPS spokesperson in Gauteng, Brigadier Brenda Muridili told TV channel Newzroom Afrika that the SAPS officers transporting the inmates to the Vosloorus Magistrate’s Court were overpowered on the way.
“The accused are all Zimbabwean nationals and their names are Nkhululeko Nkomo; Robert Hlatshwayo; Thulani Dube; Augustine Moyo; Mbongiseni Mkandla. We are currently having a team that has been launched so that they can do a manhunt and find the escapees.
“The police were outnumbers. It was two vehicles that were involved in this incident. One blocked the police vehicle from the front and a number of armed suspects, with rifles, then indicated to the police officers that they must stop the vehicle,” Muridili said.
Police later clarified to IOL that only four were Zimbabweans and the other, Robert Hlatswayo was a South African.
She said people from another vehicle that was behind the government truck broke the lock and the inmates fled.
The escapees were going to court on charges including possession of unlicensed firearms, business robbery, attempted murder and shoplifting. They are aged between 30 and 45.
The SAPS has appealed to community members to help them with information to locate the wanted suspects.
“Be very careful. Those suspects are armed and very dangerous,” said Muridili.
Last year, four “dangerous” prisoners escaped from custody in Limpopo after disarming a police officer.
“The police in Westenburg have launched a search operation for four dangerous prisoners who managed to escape from a police motor vehicle along the R101 road next to Eerstegoud Trading Store on July 21, 2021 at about 11.30am,” Limpopo SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said at the time.
He said seven prisoners were being transported from Polokwane Correctional Centre to Mokopane, for sentencing, when four of them allegedly escaped.
“The prisoners also managed to grab the service pistol belonging to a police member during the incident and fled into the nearby bushes. The other three prisoners remained in the vehicle,” said Mojapelo.